On Thursday, OptimERA Inc. piloted a new data program for the community of Unalaska. The program gives customers 50 percent more usage at the same price point.
Amid school closures due to coronavirus, students and teachers in Unalaska transitioned to home-based education last month. In an attempt to reduce some of the challenges of distance education, the local internet provider rolled out a program to provide free internet to students and teachers in Unalaska and Akutan during this transitional period.
Now, CEO Emmett Fitch said the company is trying to figure out how to give every Unalaskan, not just students and teachers, more access to broadband for less money.
Rather than doing a price drop on data, which would affect vendors who sell their coupons, the company decided that every coupon will come with a 50 percent increase in gigabytes.
"So if you get a five gigabyte coupon, it'll be worth seven and a half gigs. You get a 10 gigabyte coupon, it'll be 15 gigs. If you get a 20 gigabyte coupon, it'll be 30 gigs," said Fitch.
He said the company is also working with GCI and AT&T to expand its Educational Data Plan.
By collaborating with the two large data providers, OptimERA can leverage unused LTE spectrum to reach unserved students and educators, and effectively speed the internet up on the island.
"If we were to try to use our existing spectrum without getting more, there wouldn't be any way for us to offer broadband or internet service to everybody, because there's just not enough of it," said Fitch.
OptimERA is taking a massive financial hit by providing the community programs. Fitch said the company decided to provide these services because Unalaska, which has supported them for so many years, is in need right now.
"I think people need some of these stories right now because everything that's going on is very scary and nobody quite knows how the chips are going to fall," said Fitch. "And I think everybody needs to be doing their part and coming together and making stuff happen, and working together as a community to make sure that everybody that lives and works in Unalaska is taken care of."
OptimERA's data stimulus plan is expected to go through May 15. The Educational Data Plan will last through May 31, with the possibility of extension.